November and December are a time when we come together to catch up with loved ones, enact family traditions and celebrate life. But the season of good cheer is not always cheerful. Between selecting the perfect gift for him, booking expensive, last-minute flights and spending hours in a cramped car with family, most people get frustrated at some point during the winter holidays. Unfortunately, the closest target for those frustrations often happens to be one's partner.
"It's a season ripe for nights spent close beside a crackling fire," says psychologist and YourTango Expert Dr. Carolyn Daitch. "But once the stress of the holidays has frayed your nerves, a chance meeting under the mistletoe might be the last thing you and your partner want to encounter." After asking the YourTango Experts how to alleviate the season's stresses, we've compiled six tips to help you safeguard your love life from the pressures of holiday celebrations.
1. Discuss gifts in advance. When you spend too much or too little, your partner can easily misinterpret what a gift says about the relationship. After all, nothing dampens holiday cheer like receiving a $15 dollar gift card in exchange for an iPad.
"The best thing to do is discuss what holiday gift-giving means to you within your budget," says YourTango Expert and relationship coach Julie Spira. Agree ahead of time on a ballpark amount of what you'll spend and on the nature of your gifts: Will they be homemade, or things you can purchase?
If the post-discussion shopping overwhelms you, focus on what will make him happy rather than on picking out the perfect gadget, footwear or golf club. "Remember, gift-giving is a process of honoring someone you care about and celebrating your connection," says Daitch.
2. When gifts go wrong, don't be too hard on yourself. "The process of gift-giving can trigger feelings of inadequacy and leave you questioning your self-worth: 'Am I getting the right thing? Have I done enough?'" Daitch says. "Remind yourself that your gift doesn't determine your worth."
Keep in mind that just about anyone with money can splurge for a glamorous winter holiday, but a truly valuable relationship is one that makes you happy throughout the year. "Taking a moment to remember the worth of your relationship and your own worth as a companion can lessen the stress of finding just the right present," Daitch says.
3. Discuss your financial situation. "Money is probably the biggest stressor on a relationship," Spira says. Since so much of the holidays involves money—gift-giving and travel are two biggies—keeping an eye on your finances is especially important this time of the year.
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